To put this post in context, I have extracted the following from REACH as a prologue:
“At a recent interview with the media, Education Minister Ng Eng Hen shared that his Ministry is studying the possibility of reducing the weighting given to mother tongue languages in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). Currently, mother tongue languages carry equal weightage of 25 per cent as the other three examinable subjects, English, Mathematics and Science. The combined aggregate score is used for admission into secondary school.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) has been receiving feedback from parents who expressed concern that their children who are weaker in mother tongue languages have lost out on a place in top secondary schools. In this regard, the Ministry of Education (MOE) will review teaching methods of the mother tongue language to ensure that lessons are tailored to the needs of different groups of students, and at the same time, encourage and incentivise students who are proficient in mother tongue languages to progress further. It was noted that such a move will strengthen Singapore’s bilingual edge, since mother tongue lessons will be pitched at the correct level for the students.”
And below is a letter that I have sent to MOE via their feedback site:
“Dear MOE, in reference to the recent report on the possible reduction in weightage of Mother Tongue for PSLE, I would like to voice my feedback.
This education policy change may likely impact our renown and reputed bilingual education policy negatively. Our bilingualism has served us well over the decades, putting us as a unique breed who is able to compete on international stage. It is a rare competency not possessed by citizens of many countries, until now.
Many other countries like Britain and China have in recent years put in tremendous amount of efforts to boost their population competency by advocating and encouraging them to learn at least one more language beyond their first language. By reducing the weightage of Mother Tongue in PSLE, Singapore not only sends an implicit signal of the lessening importance of Mother Tongue, it represents a huge step backward for Singapore while other countries are moving forward.
Such policy change will impact many generations to come, with the potential bilingual competency now put to risk. Our Government has always advocated us to be more productive in the face of global competition. With reduced weightage of Mother Tongue in PSLE, it cuts a very revered string in our competency and productivity bow while other countries are adding it to theirs.
No doubt Mother Tongue has been a challenge to some students who are linguistically less inclined. However, they will have to realize that this is a challenge that they will have to learn to deal with, as with many other challenges that they will have to come across later in life. Giving them an easier route to vault themselves up the academic ladder does not bear well to developing their tenacity and perseverance, which are some of the important qualities that would benefit them in their adult lives. In time to come when they hit other speed bumps in life, who will be there to erect easier pathways to success?
We have witnessed how our foreign friends who have come to pursue academic education on our shores excel in learning a new language in just a few years. Their proficiency in the new language even beat some of the very best of Singaporean students who have learned the language for a much longer time. What is more remarkable that all this is done without them having to compromise on their own mother tongue or first language. Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has also lauded our foreign friends for their diligence and urge Singaporeans to learn from them. The same should extend to our students – they have much to learn from their foreign counterparts, who have the added difficulty of juggling a new language while adapting to a new country.
I therefore sincerely propose to MOE to give this issue thorough consideration before making a decision, as this is going to impact our many generations to come, and in turn the future development and progress of Singapore.
I am not expecting my letter or that by others to change anything. We just feel that we have to make known our opinions to the ministry in concern, as our future generations have to contend and live with this policy change and the subsequent repercussions in future.
I have also appended related links by some notable folks and a Facebook group on this issue.
- “Politics and policy-making” by Siew Kum Hong, former Nominated Member of Parliament
- “Weighting the second language in the Primary School Leaving Examination” by Yawning Bread
- Facebook group: 反对降低PSLE母语成绩比重